National Dance Week is a big week for dancers. Studios and venues holding events all around the country are celebrating all forms of dance this week from Ballet to Tap Dance to African Dancing. Dance is such an important part of culture and history.
My first experience with dancing was at Marion Mease’s ballet studio when I was 5 years old. We wore blue, textured, short sleeved leotards with matching tutus, pink tights, and pink ballet shoes. I remember loving that tutu. We would do our “work” on the barre and then try our backbends over Mrs Mease’s giant rolling pin (that’s what it looked like to me from a five year old’s perspective). Then it was time to change into our tap shoes. The teacher directed,“Shuffle step. Shuffle step!” and we stomped as loudly as we could to make tapping sounds. I’m sure we sounded like a stampede of elephants.
I stopped dancing for a period until I met Bob Pemberton who was the most amazing dancer I’d ever seen. I remember seeing him in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and watching him moonwalk across the stage. He offered dance classes down in Church Hill and my mom would pick up a group of us and we’d pack into the station wagon and head down to class. Mr. Pemberton scared us! He was very strict and preached about self discipline. I was at an extremely awkward age at the time and he didn’t have any patience for my whining. I continued studying with him until other activities became more interesting to me.
When I graduated from college I met Judy Matassa. I was in the Miss Richmond Pageant and she choreographed the opening number. I could sing, but had forgotten how to point my toes! I found a pivot turn difficult. I sang in her dance recital the next month and had a great time being backstage with all of the dancers. I loved watching them scurry around and rush to change into the next costume. The next fall I joined Mrs. Matassa’s “The Dance Studio” and took ballet. I was 23 years old and all of the girls in my class were between 12 and 18 years old. They thought I was old. I learned the fundamentals of ballet and even took a pointe ballet class. The pointe class allowed me to develop a true appreciation for the dancers on pointe. My feet got strong. I had the shortest legs in the class but when I danced, I felt beautiful. I’d never moved my body that way. I didn’t realize what my body could do.
During National Dance Week I remember fondly all of the people and classes that gave me a true appreciation and love for dance. I’ve become more aware of the space around me, my posture, and so much more! When I started the dance department at Disco Sports I hoped to cater to the new and growing dancer. After nearly eight “back to school” seasons, we have seen so many girls from two years old to college age and beyond come to our store for their dance essentials. Even though I’m on sabbatical from dancing (due to my responsibility of raising 3 small boys) I still get to see the energy and spirit in their eyes when they find the perfect leotard and feel the way their new shoes hug their feet. Thank you to all of the inspiring people who have a love of dance!